My friend Jill knows a little something about being an athlete.
In 2011, the Purdue University and Xavier High School basketball star earned an induction into the Wisconsin Basketball Hall of Fame.
Jill also knows a little something about love. She married her high school sweetheart and gleefully devotes herself to the two children they share.
That talent and heart come in handy each year when she coaches the Eagles, one of the largest and most enthusiastic Special Olympics teams in Northeastern Wisconsin.
Clipboard in hand, Jill makes her way around the track high-fiving, fist-bumping, encouraging, organizing, feeding, consoling, and hugging her athletes.
They respond the way she expects them to, competing hard, celebrating with grace and rising when they fall.
Last Saturday I watched Jacob Young compete in the 100-yard dash. Midway through, he stumbled, took a hard fall, lay there for a moment, and then, because Eagles never give up, he got up and finished the race.
Jill met him at the finish line and stayed with him while he received medical attention.
Later, with patches on his knee, elbow and shoulder, and his coach’s arm around him, he limped off to compete in his next event.
If you want to feel inspired, treat yourself to the Special Olympics. Watch the athletes smile as they compete, fight through challenges, and support each other on the starting blocks and at the finish line.
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
That’s the motto of Special Olympics and that’s the lesson we all can learn from a really cool group of athletes and coaches.